A comparative study of human immunodeficiency virus culture, polymerase chain reaction and anti-human immunodeficiency virus immunoglobulin A antibody detection in the diagnosis during early infancy of vertically acquired human immunodeficiency virus infection

Pediatr Infect Dis J. 1994 Feb;13(2):90-4. doi: 10.1097/00006454-199402000-00002.


The infection status of 91 infants born to mothers with human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) infection was determined. Twenty-eight (31%) infants had confirmed HIV infection and 63 (69%) had seroreverted to HIV and lack evidence of infection. During the first 6 months of life HIV culture had a sensitivity and specificity for diagnosis of HIV infection of 80 and 100%, respectively. False negative HIV cultures were observed in only 7 of 35 specimens, 6 from among the 12 infected infants tested at birth. The sensitivity and specificity of polymerase chain reaction (PCR) detection of HIV were 95 and 93% respectively. A single false negative PCR test result was observed among the 19 tests performed on specimens from HIV-infected infants. False positive PCR test results were observed occasionally throughout the first 6 months of life. Detection of HIV-specific IgA antibody lacked diagnostic sensitivity; positive test results were observed in only 53% of specimens obtained from infected infants. Culture and PCR detection offer excellent sensitivity and specificity for diagnosis of HIV infection during the first 6 months of life; however, false-negative HIV cultures sometimes are observed, particularly during the newborn period, and either false negative or false positive PCR test results may be noted occasionally. For purposes of clinical decision-making, any positive test result should be confirmed with a second HIV culture or PCR test performed on a separate blood specimen.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • False Negative Reactions
  • False Positive Reactions
  • Female
  • Genes, gag
  • HIV / isolation & purification
  • HIV Antibodies / blood*
  • HIV Infections / diagnosis*
  • HIV Infections / transmission
  • Humans
  • Immunoglobulin A / blood*
  • Infant
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Polymerase Chain Reaction / methods*
  • Pregnancy
  • Pregnancy Complications, Infectious*
  • Sensitivity and Specificity


  • HIV Antibodies
  • Immunoglobulin A